Exercise 4.1: Daylight

I began with looking in to the work of Sally Mann, known for her family portraits and body farm images, Sally’s work has always been a source of controversy.
This mainly stems from the public display and sale of her nude family portraits in which her children, at the time aged 7, 10 and 12, are captured in what could be classed as provocative poses and situations.

I find her work challenging and uncomfortable for these reason but also strangely alluring. The consistent theme of the macabre, death and apocalyptic environment engages me. I find the depth of the images encourage exploration of the frame looking for subtleties or and explanation for the situation.

I feel that whilst she is presented here as research for daylight and is quoted as saying
‘You have to live in the south to understand the difference. In summer, the quality of the air and the light are so layered, complex and mysterious’
I would challenge that and say her atheistic is more down to the use of Wet Plate and bellows cameras. I really feel that a lot of the depth of the image comes from that medium but I also feel she is pushing the weaknesses of the cameras a little too far almost akin to todays instagram filters.
This is such a shame because it takes away from the softness and angle of the light in her images, enhancing details just right whilst having subtle gradual shifts from highlight to shadow.

Some examples of her use of light in two other ways.
The top selection is I feel an excellent example of how she uses light to highlight subtle details, the texture and creases of fabrics. As a viewer I can almost feel the clamminess of the wet materials, as well as the lightness of the crimped sleeves and knickers.
The final selections I picked out more because of the control of exposure within the images giving different results. Another of Mann’s traits, examining decay and ageing. Personally I don’t really connect with these faces but I feel they are representative of aspects of exploration within Mann’s work.

The next suggested photographer is Micheal Schmidt.
In many ways Schmidt is a photographer after my own heart, unknowingly influenced by his use of diffused flat, midday light he captured urban landscapes and street photography in Berlin during the time of the Wall.

Quoted in the reading ‘ I prefer to work with neutral diffused light, i.e. to produce an image without noticeable shadows. The viewer must allow the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects.‘

This resonates with myself, I find that as a photographer I am much more concerned with displaying and capturing the moment, feel or statement rather than looking to create drama or romance with overwhelming shadow or contrast such as in Mann’s work. I find that in several of Schmidt’s images its the absence of something in the scene that intrigues.

Whilst I chose to highlight two images for their flatness as key images of Schmidt’s, his breakthrough work, ‘Waffenruhe’ contained several portraits, this time with harsh flash lighting the subject, this i don’t find as inline with my own vision, I enjoy the images for their candidness, a look at the people during this time. I see how his work has gone on to influence modern fashion photographers such as Terry Richardson but I feel his street photography is much stronger.

The final suggested photographer is Eugène Atget, an early pioneer of photography who, much like Schmidt, is known for flatly lit images and in a similar vein to Mann had the limitations of his equipment to deal with.

I have limited to selection to show here as Atget has a huge body of work which is full available of the MoMA website.
Atget was prolific at the turn of the 20th centurary with a 35 year career ending in 1927 with his death.
In his work I see the influence of Fenton before him, the framing of shots, the subjects of his imagery all similar but perhaps more practiced than Fenton. I do however feel that whilst he shows more skill, I feel he lacks some of the experimentation and personality of Fenton. HIs work went on to inspire surrealist artist who enjoyed the emptiness of his images, personally I don’t find the emptiness as enthralling as SChmidt’s work, possibly because the images I have seen are not of structures and subjects we attached emotion to, unlike the image of the slide shown above for Schmidt. The use of light though is very similar to Schmidt, soft and diffused, more a record of the subject than a statement.

And so on to my selections.
I wanted to capture several different types of light inline with the examples above, but also to challenge those. I feel I could do better in capturing light as it doesn’t come naturally to me but this has been a good starting point for practice

This first image I chose because I feel it captures mix between the intrigue of Mann’s work and the flatness of Schmidt’s. The low setting sun provides very diffused light creating very shallow shadows as seen in the post centre of image, but the colour and reflection tell the story of the time of day whilst highlighting the texture of the metal panels.

This image is a stark contrast, in more ways than one, to the photographers researched. Taken whilst the sun was strong and high in the sky it created very hard shadows. I captured this image just because I liked the difference in the blue between the lit and shaded areas, also the way it transects the window frames, and creates lines with the protruding wall and pipes. It’s not an image I would say represents my work because it doesn’t have that point of humanity I like.

This is another image I chose because of the diffusion of light. I feel this image, on reflection, is where I see the influence of Schmidt in some of my work. Urban imagery capturing a place where absence is the evocation. The cares bottle to the side lets us know this is modern but with no other point of reference it is a look back in time. I let the shadows fall off to complete black to build tension, but retained the gradation between the stalls indicating how the light passes through the frame.

This image I chose not for the representation of the research, or even to challenge the photographers mentioned. I chose this for the depth of colour, the warmth and safety I feel in the image. I liked how the sun dropping behind the building lets us see the outline of the historic buildings and reflects back from the modern. It represents the passage of time and at the moment of capturing this image, I was really stepping up my work so this moment captures my own passing.

This final image was shot on my iPhone one morning whilst the sun was pouring into the kitchen. I chose this much for the same reason I chose the first and fourth images. The light tells us so much about the image, time of day time of year, but its also what the light shows us by its absence that is interesting. In the full resolution image on the phone you can see the steam rising from the cup, it appears too faintly on my ipad to see so may not translate. Really the deciding factor for keeping this shot and working with it was the fly shadow. Completely unintended and barely noticeable on screen at the time but we see how the sunlight amplifies the size of the fly. For me, I think this image works because it is just something we all do.

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